May 15, 2012

My Boss, My Hero: Mafia School

Clearly writer-director Yun Je-gyun's My Boss, My Hero is a comedy, but what sub-genre does it fit into best? Jopok comedy? Sure, that'll work since its lead character Do-shik (Jeong Jun-ho) is an up-and-coming gangster who appears to have taken a leadership class from that slap-happiest of stooges Moe. Teen comedy? That'll work too since the action takes place primarily at a private high school where Do-shik has returned -- somewhat preposterously given that he's now in his late 20s -- to get his diploma. Romantic comedy? Why not, since there's not just one but two kooky love stories: one involving fellow mobster Sang-do (Jeong Woong-in) who starts courting the school's hot English teacher (Song Seon-mi) at T.G.I. Friday's; the other a strangely platonic romance between Do-shik and class-smartie-cum-karaoke-hooker Yun-ju (Oh Seung-eun). Fish out of water comedy? It's got some of that. Sex comedy? That too. Slapstick comedy? Generational divide comedy? Gross-out comedy? Comedy of manners? Yes times four. There are few sub-genres that My Boss, My Hero doesn't incorporate into its plot. I guess, road movie and mockumentary are covered in one of the two sequels.

Funny thing about My Boss, My Hero, however, is that the best part isn't the comedy. It's the martial arts. The movie has two really enjoyable fight scenes, one involving Do-shik taking on a rival teen gang all by himself; the other, which starts similarly with Do-shik against many, eventually ends up a more balanced battle as Do-shik is joined by his fellow gang members and the entire student body to take on the thugs hired by the corrupt corporation that is making a mockery of their education. Both fights are well choreographed, and the second one features added tension created by a handheld camera guided, at times, by a cheerful flasher who periodically shows up in the story to expose himself. I can't say I laughed continuously throughout My Boss, My Hero. Indeed some of the incidental violence in which teachers hit students is truly shocking in its realness. But the climactic fight, which builds to a tag team brawl in the rain, is so exhilarating that you really do crave two sequels. I'm hoping at least one of them gives increased screen time to Jeong Un-take who plays an idiotic second banana name Head who's like a big, dumb puppy. I'd also like to see more of the skinny actor playing the queeny student who straightens his hair with his flip-phone in the girls room. He's a hoot.

May 6, 2012

Eye for an Eye: Revenge Without Vision

Han Suk-kyu! Yeah, you! Come over here for a second. I want to talk to you. Now please don't take offense, but I was really frustrated with your acting in the abominable heist pic Eye for an Eye. To be blunt, your turn as Captain Baek Sung-chan really irritated the heck out of me. I know the movie's failure is not all your fault. The screenplay by co-directors Kwak Kyung-taek and Ahn Kwon-tae is full of holes. No one would believe that the cop you play would go so that easy on Ahn Hyon-min (Cha Seung-won), the goateed guy who frames him for grand larceny when he just wants to retire and become a pest exterminator. Nor would anyone believe that your character Baek could so consistently predict his foil's next step then just as consistently be tricked for the step thereafter. They certainly aren't going to believe that he's going to put that much stock in any leads provided by Antonio (Lee Byung-joon), the weird-toothed transvestite with whom he's been acquainted for years. Yes, Cha, even if your performance had been brilliant, Eye for an Eye would have been a dud, a second-rate thriller unlikely to make a top ten list covering your career.

But couldn't you have at least made it better? You've been in so many movies that I've really liked -- The President's Last Bang, The Scarlet Letter, Tell Me Something... And you've been good in movies I've had mixed feelings about too -- Green Fish, A Bloody Aria... You certainly didn't make any of those movies worse! But here... Oh, Cha, what are you doing? That high-pitched laugh you keep doing to relate the mad, crazy ridiculousness of it all in Eye for an Eye is both forced and grating. The smug self-satisfied way you have of lighting a cigarette or popping a piece of chewing gum in your mouth isn't as cool as you seem to think it is. Far from it. I hate to say it, my friend, but in this flick, you come across as a poseur, not an actor. There's so much that feels fraudulent in your performance that I've even begun to doubt whether your now-gray hair is prematurely so or whether you've had it dyed that way. Oh Cha, when you're good, you're quite good but here you're quite bad. It almost makes me re-evaluate everything you've ever done. But why do that? I thank you for your other movies. And I forgive you for this one.

On second thought, I might be totally wrong. Because you're still the most memorable part of the movie. It seems unlikely I'll forget that laugh or that affected bravado or that silver hair. I give up. You win, Han Suk-kyu.